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Laissez-Moi Danser

Short Story | A disco dancing ghost haunts a woman into enjoying life in Paris

Published by Medium

I have always loved the Place Dalida in Montmartre - this story is my tribute to that small, remarkable park. 


It is September when you arrive. The wind carries cold on its breath, a warning that winter will strike before long. But this is Paris. You have always wanted to live here. What is it about this city? You climb the steps out of the metro at the Anvers stop. You’ve just arrived after flying overnight and between the jetlag and lugging your suitcase on the metro, the sunlight caressing the limestone buildings and smell of dying leaves hits you right in the heart.

Finally, you think. I’m here.

You’ve been to Paris before, as a child with your parents, after college with your girlfriends, then once, later, with a lover. You’ve studied its history. Named Lutetia by the Romans and sacked by marauding Vikings — a chain across the river designed to thwart the approach of their long boats, but it didn’t. The early city nestled onto an island in the Seine, the Ile de la Cite. It houses the famous cathedral, which, in the long tradition of cathedrals, is closed after fire nearly brought it to the ground. Round and round the history winds, mirroring the city’s concentric plan — like a moon shell, coiled and chambered, each era and arrondissement yielding unexpected treasures, fresh insights. Paris, like the self, spirals, assimilating waves of conquerors, emigres, artists and bureaucrats, hopeful or world weary, seducing them in its blue haze, then showing them — and you, maybe? — new facets as time moves them in its gyre.

You have come on a Fulbright, armed with your newly minted Ph.D. in historical textiles. Your project is to map the cartoons — tapestry templates, not comics — in the Gobelins Manufactory. An art history genome, you called it in your proposal, and you bring a geneticist’s rigor to the work, cataloging, classifying, clarifying the history and material innovation that led to the vast woven works of art, that sadly look like tatty curtains in so many renderings. Literal backdrops. You will reveal their glory, the intricacy of their making, the vast exchange of money it took to create them. Every aspect of them fascinates you. This city, this project — and money enough to dig deep for two years. It is your dream come true.

Of course, Paris is a container for many kinds of dreams, not all of them scholastic.

Dalida dancing with backup singers.
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